New and Exciting in PLoS ONE

There are 32 new articles in PLoS ONE today. As always, you should rate the articles, post notes and comments and send trackbacks when you blog about the papers. You can now also easily place articles on various social services (CiteULike, Mendeley, Connotea, Stumbleupon, Facebook and Digg) with just one click. Here are my own picks for the week – you go and look for your own favourites:
Laetoli Footprints Preserve Earliest Direct Evidence of Human-Like Bipedal Biomechanics:

Debates over the evolution of hominin bipedalism, a defining human characteristic, revolve around whether early bipeds walked more like humans, with energetically efficient extended hind limbs, or more like apes with flexed hind limbs. The 3.6 million year old hominin footprints at Laetoli, Tanzania represent the earliest direct evidence of hominin bipedalism. Determining the kinematics of Laetoli hominins will allow us to understand whether selection acted to decrease energy costs of bipedalism by 3.6 Ma. Using an experimental design, we show that the Laetoli hominins walked with weight transfer most similar to the economical extended limb bipedalism of humans. Humans walked through a sand trackway using both extended limb bipedalism, and more flexed limb bipedalism. Footprint morphology from extended limb trials matches weight distribution patterns found in the Laetoli footprints. These results provide us with the earliest direct evidence of kinematically human-like bipedalism currently known, and show that extended limb bipedalism evolved long before the appearance of the genus Homo. Since extended-limb bipedalism is more energetically economical than ape-like bipedalism, energy expenditure was likely an important selection pressure on hominin bipeds by 3.6 Ma.

Embryonic, Larval, and Juvenile Development of the Sea Biscuit Clypeaster subdepressus (Echinodermata: Clypeasteroida):

Sea biscuits and sand dollars diverged from other irregular echinoids approximately 55 million years ago and rapidly dispersed to oceans worldwide. A series of morphological changes were associated with the occupation of sand beds such as flattening of the body, shortening of primary spines, multiplication of podia, and retention of the lantern of Aristotle into adulthood. To investigate the developmental basis of such morphological changes we documented the ontogeny of Clypeaster subdepressus. We obtained gametes from adult specimens by KCl injection and raised the embryos at 26C. Ciliated blastulae hatched 7.5 h after sperm entry. During gastrulation the archenteron elongated continuously while ectodermal red-pigmented cells migrated synchronously to the apical plate. Pluteus larvae began to feed in 3 d and were 20 d old at metamorphosis; starved larvae died 17 d after fertilization. Postlarval juveniles had neither mouth nor anus nor plates on the aboral side, except for the remnants of larval spicules, but their bilateral symmetry became evident after the resorption of larval tissues. Ossicles of the lantern were present and organized in 5 groups. Each group had 1 tooth, 2 demipyramids, and 2 epiphyses with a rotula in between. Early appendages consisted of 15 spines, 15 podia (2 types), and 5 sphaeridia. Podial types were distributed in accordance to Lovén’s rule and the first podium of each ambulacrum was not encircled by the skeleton. Seven days after metamorphosis juveniles began to feed by rasping sand grains with the lantern. Juveniles survived in laboratory cultures for 9 months and died with wide, a single open sphaeridium per ambulacrum, aboral anus, and no differentiated food grooves or petaloids. Tracking the morphogenesis of early juveniles is a necessary step to elucidate the developmental mechanisms of echinoid growth and important groundwork to clarify homologies between irregular urchins.

Emotion Separation Is Completed Early and It Depends on Visual Field Presentation:

It is now apparent that the visual system reacts to stimuli very fast, with many brain areas activated within 100 ms. It is, however, unclear how much detail is extracted about stimulus properties in the early stages of visual processing. Here, using magnetoencephalography we show that the visual system separates different facial expressions of emotion well within 100 ms after image onset, and that this separation is processed differently depending on where in the visual field the stimulus is presented. Seven right-handed males participated in a face affect recognition experiment in which they viewed happy, fearful and neutral faces. Blocks of images were shown either at the center or in one of the four quadrants of the visual field. For centrally presented faces, the emotions were separated fast, first in the right superior temporal sulcus (STS; 35-48 ms), followed by the right amygdala (57-64 ms) and medial pre-frontal cortex (83-96 ms). For faces presented in the periphery, the emotions were separated first in the ipsilateral amygdala and contralateral STS. We conclude that amygdala and STS likely play a different role in early visual processing, recruiting distinct neural networks for action: the amygdala alerts sub-cortical centers for appropriate autonomic system response for fight or flight decisions, while the STS facilitates more cognitive appraisal of situations and links appropriate cortical sites together. It is then likely that different problems may arise when either network fails to initiate or function properly.

Effect of Rhythmic Auditory Stimulation on Gait in Parkinsonian Patients with and without Freezing of Gait:

Freezing of gait (FOG) in Parkinson’s disease (PD) rises in prevalence when the effect of medications decays. It is known that auditory rhythmic stimulation improves gait in patients without FOG (PD-FOG), but its putative effect on patients with FOG (PD+FOG) at the end of dose has not been evaluated yet. This work evaluates the effect of auditory rhythmic stimulation on PD+FOG at the end of dose. 10 PD+FOG and 9 PD-FOG patients both at the end of dose periods, and 10 healthy controls were asked to perform several walking tasks. Tasks were performed in the presence and absence of auditory sensory stimulation. All PD+FOG suffered FOG during the task. The presence of auditory rhythmic stimulation (10% above preferred walking cadence) led PD+FOG to significantly reduce FOG. Velocity and cadence were increased, and turn time reduced in all groups. We conclude that auditory stimulation at the frequency proposed may be useful to avoid freezing episodes in PD+FOG.

Circadian Control of Mouse Heart Rate and Blood Pressure by the Suprachiasmatic Nuclei: Behavioral Effects Are More Significant than Direct Outputs:

Diurnal variations in the incidence of events such as heart attack and stroke suggest a role for circadian rhythms in the etiology of cardiovascular disease. The aim of this study was to assess the influence of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) circadian clock on cardiovascular function. Heart rate (HR), blood pressure (BP) and locomotor activity (LA) were measured in circadian mutant (Vipr2−/−) mice and wild type littermates, using implanted radio-telemetry devices. Sleep and wakefulness were studied in similar mice implanted with electroencephalograph (EEG) electrodes. There was less diurnal variation in the frequency and duration of bouts of rest/activity and sleep/wake in Vipr2−/− mice than in wild type (WT) and short “ultradian” episodes of arousal were more prominent, especially in constant conditions (DD). Activity was an important determinant of circadian variation in BP and HR in animals of both genotypes; altered timing of episodes of activity and rest (as well as sleep and wakefulness) across the day accounted for most of the difference between Vipr2−/− mice and WT. However, there was also a modest circadian rhythm of resting HR and BP that was independent of LA. If appropriate methods of analysis are used that take into account sleep and locomotor activity level, mice are a good model for understanding the contribution of circadian timing to cardiovascular function. Future studies of the influence of sleep and wakefulness on cardiovascular physiology may help to explain accumulating evidence linking disrupted sleep with cardiovascular disease in man.

Bias Due to Changes in Specified Outcomes during the Systematic Review Process:

Adding, omitting or changing outcomes after a systematic review protocol is published can result in bias because it increases the potential for unacknowledged or post hoc revisions of the planned analyses. The main objective of this study was to look for discrepancies between primary outcomes listed in protocols and in the subsequent completed reviews published on the Cochrane Library. A secondary objective was to quantify the risk of bias in a set of meta-analyses where discrepancies between outcome specifications in protocols and reviews were found. New reviews from three consecutive issues of the Cochrane Library were assessed. For each review, the primary outcome(s) listed in the review protocol and the review itself were identified and review authors were contacted to provide reasons for any discrepancies. Over a fifth (64/288, 22%) of protocol/review pairings were found to contain a discrepancy in at least one outcome measure, of which 48 (75%) were attributable to changes in the primary outcome measure. Where lead authors could recall a reason for the discrepancy in the primary outcome, there was found to be potential bias in nearly a third (8/28, 29%) of these reviews, with changes being made after knowledge of the results from individual trials. Only 4(6%) of the 64 reviews with an outcome discrepancy described the reason for the change in the review, with no acknowledgment of the change in any of the eight reviews containing potentially biased discrepancies. Outcomes that were promoted in the review were more likely to be significant than if there was no discrepancy (relative risk 1.66 95% CI (1.10, 2.49), p = 0.02). In a review, making changes after seeing the results for included studies can lead to biased and misleading interpretation if the importance of the outcome (primary or secondary) is changed on the basis of those results. Our assessment showed that reasons for discrepancies with the protocol are not reported in the review, demonstrating an under-recognition of the problem. Complete transparency in the reporting of changes in outcome specification is vital; systematic reviewers should ensure that any legitimate changes to outcome specification are reported with reason in the review.

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